Friday, 4 December 2015

It's not me, it's my dopamine receptors

I spend more time than I ever want to admit thinking about whether I am addicted to alcohol. The truth is, alcohol is an addictive substance and I drink it most days, even on the days I have decided not to. Now I’m not a scientist, but I think that from that, we can conclude that I am addicted to alcohol.

I know there are lots of people who can just have the odd drink now and again, and not really think about it in between. But for whatever reason, the way my particular brain is wired means that I'm just not one of them.

Now I could get into the whole ‘My name’s Lastorders and I’m a you-know-what.’ But I’m not sure what good it would do me. If I have a problem with alcohol, then I want to leave it behind and move on with my life, not forever link it with my identity. And I don’t see why this can’t happen. I used to smoke close to a pack a day, then I stopped. It was quite difficult and took a couple of attempts, but seven years ago I quit completely and I am pretty confident I’ll never smoke again. (I didn’t expect to feel like that, I thought I would always miss it, but actually it seems kind of gross now.) But the important point is, I don’t think of myself as a smokeaholic. I’m just someone who used to smoke and doesn’t now. And that’s where I want to get with booze. I don’t know what a alcohol-free life will feel like until I’ve done it, so I’m aiming for a year at first. If I don’t like it after that, I can get completely clattered again. That's the deal I'm making with myself.  

To help get my head in gear for this big change, I need to think about what I will gain by stopping.

So here goes:

On 1 January I am stopping drinking for a year because:

  • I want to lose a stone, and I have tried everything except giving up drinking. I’m pretty confident that is what it will take.

  • I want to look fresher and maybe a bit younger. I’ve noticed that if I’ve had a drink the night before, my skin really shows it the next day.

  • I want to sleep every night the whole night through, without waking, dehydrated at 3am and staying awake until 5am.

  • I want to wake up feeling cheerful and ready to interact with my lovely children, instead of having to pretend I feel like that.

  • I want to take my creative work more seriously, get better at it and give it more of my time. I can’t do that with a hangover.

  • I want to practice yoga most days, instead of just the days I’m not hungover.

  • I want to live a long and healthy life. 

  •  I want to achieve more in the evenings, file photos, organise paperwork, read novels, instead of being stuck on the sofa with a glass of wine in my hand.

  • I want avoid the embarrassment of ordering a drink when no one else is having one.

  • I want to wake up after seeing friends without having to replay the whole evening, checking if I was thoughtless/rude/self-centred.

  • I want to go to a work-do without the underlying assumption that I will be embarrassed the next day.

  • I want to know I am safe getting home from a party on my own.

  • I want to be able to focus on the people I am socialising with, rather than sitting through entire lunch parties thinking about why no one has opened the second bottle of wine.

  • I want to start having savings. (A lot of my unnecessary expenditure is rooted in drinking: treating my family to expensive pub lunches just so I can drink in the day; big restaurant bills on week-nights with girlfriends; impulsive clothes purchases the day after etc)

  • I want to feel proud of myself.

Quite a list isn’t it? Those are some major gains. If there was a pill that would give me all those things, I would pay a lot for it. And all those things are within my grasp. I just have to stop pouring alcohol in a glass and drinking it. Simple.

But of course, nothing is ever that simple. So my next blog post will be all about what I will lose. Because there’s quite a lot to say about that too.

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